Samuel H. Warner is an enigmatic man.
The 74-year-old Castaic resident profiled on the Signal’s Veteran’s page in September was a veteran whose accomplishments seemed so impressive that his story was told in two parts.
From the time he graduated from Los Angeles High School, class of ’57 at the age of 15 to the time he said he served with the 1st/7th Cavalry, having fought in Ia Drang -one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War – and into his retirement, the story of Samuel Warner seemed nothing short of amazing.
In sharing his story with The Signal, he put himself at the center of the most iconic military moments in the last half century, from the Bay of Pigs and the 1960 U-2 spy plane incident, to 1991 when he said he was called back to active duty at age 49 to fight in the Persian Gulf War.
When the story was published online, his story about his many exploits was suddenly available to readers across the nation, including veterans in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and the homes of others who also served in the 1st/7th Cavalry and fought at Ia Drang.
The problem was none of the half dozen 1st/7th Cavalry veterans in “B” Company contacted by The Signal remember Sam Warner.
The Battle of Ia Drang was a defining moment in the Vietnam War. It was fought in two main engagements carried out by the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment Nov. 14 and 15, 1965 and by the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Nov. 17. It was the first major battle between the US Army and the North Vietnamese Army.
Warner told The Signal he was assigned to the first unit – Bravo Company 1st/7th Cavalry Regiment under Lt. Col. Harold G. “Hal” Moore.
Moore died on Feb. 10 of this year. He was 94.
When some members of the 1st/7th Cavalry, who fought under Moore at Ia Drang read Sam Warner’s story online, none of them could recall fighting alongside anyone named Sam Warner.
None of the veterans who served under Moore – who until his death got together regularly for barbecues and reunions with them – ever received a memorial ring from Moore as Warner modeled proudly in that first interview with The Signal in September.
Moore gave the ring to Warner at a reunion in 1985, Warner said.
Dennis Deal, who served with Moore as Rifle Platoon Leader of Bravo Company 1st/7th Cavalry and who attended the 1985 reunion Warner cited, said he’s never heard of Sam Warner.
“Let’s put the ring thing to rest,” Deal said. “It never happened. This —- (man) claimed to have been one of 17 who Moore gave a ring at a reunion where I was in attendance. Simply it never happened. Never.
“I will swear on an affidavit that Moore did not give out any rings, ever,” Deal said. “So, let’s put that myth away.”
George Hughes, who served with Moore as Weapons Platoon Leader of Bravo Company 1st/7th Cavalry and joined Moore for the 50th anniversary reunion of the Battle of Ia Drang in 2015, told The Signal March 3: “There were no rings that any of us ever heard of.”
“George and I got together and talked for over an hour about this,” Deal said, referring to Warner’s claims. “It’s absolutely preposterous, his claims.”
Joseph “Joe” L. Galloway who photographed Bravo Company 1st/7th Cavalry soldiers as they fought at the Battle of Ia Drang and who chronicled their stories said he does not remember Sam Warner, despite having conducted 250 post-war interviews.
Galloway, who lives in North Carolina, is a seasoned war correspondent who covered war for 41 years, from 1965 to 2006.
“Hal Moore never gave out commemorative rings to anyone,” Galloway told The Signal March 13. “Certainly not to me and I would think I might have been the first to get one if he had ever given them out. Which he did not.”
Galloway and Moore co-wrote the book, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” which was a New York Times Bestseller and described as “gut-wrenching” by retired US Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf on the book’s dust cover.
“After the war and during the war, I remained in close touch with Gen. Moore by letter mail and occasional personal visits while he was on active duty and I was assigned to various overseas posts by United Press International,” Galloway told The Signal.
“When we began research on WWSOAY in 1982 I was living in Los Angeles and Hal Moore was living in Crested Butte, Colo,” he said. “At that time, we had names and contact info for approximately 12 to 15 Ia Drang veterans.
“Beginning in 1986, there was an annual Ia Drang gathering at the 1st Cavalry Division Association reunions. By 1989 around 50 veterans attended the Ia Drang dinner at Fort Myer, Va.
“About ten or twelve years ago the 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry 1965-66 veterans began having an annual summer reunion. First one organized by CSM Basil Plumley in Columbus, Ga.
“Your fellow is not on any Company Roster of Ia Drang veterans,” Galloway said, referring to Warner.
“He never attended any of the Ia Drang dinners each November 11 in Washington DC. Nobody ever heard of this man in any connection to the Ia Drang,” he said.
Because of his background and reputation for thoroughness, Galloway worked as special consultant for the 50th anniversary commemoration project of the Vietnam War for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
He has also served as consultant for the upcoming PBS documentary on the history of the Vietnam War which promises to be the war’s definitive account, to be broadcast this fall.
Galloway said that even after he had conducted months of painstaking research for his book, finding surviving vets and getting their stories, he found no mention of Sam Warner.
“We interviewed over 250 individuals who we had to find first,” Galloway said. “And that was in the days before the worldwide phone book was on two CDs.”
More research was done when Galloway’s book became a movie in 2002 starring Mel Gibson as Lt. Col. Hal Moore, but none of the research material he uncovered included any reference to Sam Warner.
And, Galloway was not the only veteran soldier keeping notes.
Retired Col. John Herren who was the commanding officer of B Company 1st/7th Cavalry 1965/66 kept a roster of everyone under his command–about 100 soldiers.
“There was no Sam Warner in my company,” Herren told The Signal on March 17.
Herren, Deal, Hughes and Galloway each told The Signal the claims made by Warner are at best not accurate and at worst, not true.
Moore and his brothers in arms each galvanized in a unique bond which only the men who survived the same life-threatening ordeal are forged to do – they met for a reunion in 1985, again in 1988 and in 2015, marking the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang.
The first time veterans attending the 2015 reunion had heard of Sam Warner was with the online publishing of The Signal profile.
Deal said he checked with his Bravo Company commander who told him he never heard of Sam Warner.
Sam Warner first came to the attention of The Signal as a member of the local American Legion on Spruce Street in Newhall.
The Signal asked Legion officials if they had a copy of Warner’s DD214 – the military’s official account of a veteran’s military service – which is often left on file with American Legion Posts when a veteran seeks to join.
Thomas Troesch, the sergeant-at-arms for Post 507, told The Signal that while a DD214 is the preferred proof of military service it is not necessary for a veteran to produce one in order to become a member.
Christina Chase, who handles membership for Post 507, said she requires some sort of paperwork – not necessarily a DD214 – in order to confirm a veteran’s service.
A third official at the Newhall Legion, Bob Heinish, confirmed for The Signal that Warner was approved to be a member of the Legion – but not because they had seen his military records in the form of a DD214.
“He was a transfer in from another Legion,” Heinish said, noting he transferred a lot of veterans from Post 1000 near San Francisco.
A search of public phone records shows Sam Warner lived for a while in Elk Grove, a community south of Sacramento about 100 miles from San Francisco.
Even with the doubts expressed about his service at Ia Drang, The Signal continued its search for someone who remembered serving with Samuel H. Warner.
Las Vegas reunion
After a month of research, The Signal found a Sam Warner listed as a member of the 1st Cavalry Division Association.
In 1996, Sam Warner became one of 28,000 members of the Ft. Hood, Texas, club which is made up of “anyone who has been assigned or attached to the 1st Cavalry Division anytime, anywhere,” according to the association’s online home page.
Karleen Maloney, who oversees club membership, was asked if Warner presented proof of his military service by presenting a DD214. Seeing a copy of the form would verify Warner’s claims by detailing his military service.
“They show some sort of proof,” Maloney told The Signal, noting not necessarily a DD214. “Something that says they were attached to the 1st Cavalry.”
Warner’s name was added to a list of 1st Cavalry Division Association members who bought tickets to attend a reunion held in Las Vegas in September 2016, she said.
Maloney said four members of what Warner said was his unit – the 1st/7th Cavalry Bravo Company – were also signed up to go.
“They’re comrades,” Maloney said about association members signing up for the weekend reunion in Las Vegas. “They were there (Vietnam War) together, so they get together and talk about it.”
But that didn’t seem to happen with Warner and his former comrades in Las Vegas.
The Signal caught up with two members of the unit who attended the Las Vegas reunion – Mark Dockter and Friedrich Morawietz. Neither veteran remembered Sam Warner from their time in Vietnam, nor did they connect with anybody named Sam Warner at the Las Vegas reunion.
“There was 600 1st/7th Cavalry there,” Dockter said of last year’s reunion in Las Vegas. “It was a big turnout.
“All of us in the 1st/7th sat together for our special dinner,” he said, noting he never met anyone named Sam Warner in Las Vegas.
“The name doesn’t ring a bell,” he said.
Warner said he was promoted to the rank of Company Commander on Nov. 4, 1967, a couple of months after he led troops over a berm at Long Binh near Saigon as a 1st lieutenant.
At Ia Drang, Walter Joseph “Joe” Marm, Jr., was a 1st lieutenant who led his platoon through enemy fire from a concealed machine gun. He ran at the machine gun and tried to destroy it with an antitank weapon. Marm was wounded, fell down but then got back up and charged across 30 meters of open ground, throwing grenades into the enemy position. Wounded again, he charged with only a rifle.
For his outstanding heroism, Marm received America’s highest and most prestigious honor – the Medal of Honor.
“He saved my life,” Deal told The Signal, adding “Joe knows everybody.”
Marm, as a Medal of Honor recipient, knows many of the commanding officers that served in Vietnam. And, if Joe Marm knows “everybody,” many, many high-ranking and low-ranking veterans alike know him.
Marm told The Signal he does not remember any soldier promoted to any rank above private named Sam Warner.
Marm was asked if a high-ranking officer, such as a commanding officer in charge of the “B” Company 1st/7th Cavalry, could be unaware of a man who had the rank of 1st lieutenant as Warner claimed.
“It would be impossible for a company commander not to know him,” Marm said.
In its weeks of searching for brothers in arms who remembered serving with Warner, The Signal only found veterans who said they never encountered anyone by that name.
Importance of DD214
Looking at a copy of a DD214 would clear up any questions about a veteran’s military career. It is the definitive record of a veteran’s military service. Every veteran is given a DD214 when they leave the service but they can also request a copy of the document at any time after that.
However, any request for military records ultimately rests with the vet himself or next of kin, and requires one of those signatures.
When Warner was asked by The Signal for a copy of his DD214 in August 2016
he said he had mailed the request and was waiting for his military service records to arrive, noting the process sometimes takes six months.
Six months later, on Feb. 21, The Signal visited Sam Warner at his home in Castaic and asked to see his DD214 military service records.
“It hasn’t come yet,” he told The Signal, through eight inches of open door, unlike in September when he had invited a reporter inside his home.
“This is not a good time,” Warner said. “I was in an automobile accident two weeks ago.”
Warner was told The Signal would follow up and return in two weeks to see if he had received the DD214.
On March 7 speaking again through a slightly opened door, Warner was told The Signal was preparing to publish a story based on claims and suspicions voiced by other vets who said they didn’t remember him.
Warner asked who the vets were and was told: Joe Galloway, George Hughes, Dennis Deal.
Warner repeated the name of each vet named and then asked: “What about -?”
Although he never completed that thought, he told The Signal: “Look, I just had a stroke and I’m all f—-ed up.” He also said he was in a traffic collision.
Warner said a second time: “What about – ?”
After not completing that thought a second time, Warner was told that according to the Veterans Administration, he should have received his DD214 typically within two weeks, absolutely within six months, and that The Signal would send the request in for him if he would sign the form.
A pen was held out to him.
“I’m not signing anything,” he said.
At that point, Warner closed the door and said: “Leave me alone.”
Galloway, Hughes and Deal were asked later if Sam Warner had reached out to them in an effort to refresh their memories. They were asked if he had contacted them by phone or email to say something like “Don’t you guys remember me. I’m the guy who -?”
Each of the three veterans said they received no contact from Sam Warner.
Editor’s note: When The Signal first introduced veteran’s profiles in 2016 it was the practice of this newspaper to request a copy of a veteran’s record of military service (DD214) when available. We now have a policy that a veteran’s profile is not published if they do not show us a copy of the DD214 document.